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Wednesday afternoon Melody Vo ordered a Vietnamese coffee at Toasted in Dallas. When she took her first sip, she immediately knew it was a cold brew mixed with condensed milk, not the stronger espresso-like pour-over typically used in Vietnamese coffee.
Vo took her coffee back to the counter, sure she’d been handed the wrong order. The employee explained to her the order was correct, going as far as telling her that’s exactly how they make coffee in Vietnam. That comment was a “slap in the face,” Vo says.
As Vo often does, she then left a detailed review of Toasted on Yelp, praising the nice space: “Great atmosphere, the coffee shop is gorgeous.” But she settled on two stars for a powdery potato soup and cold brew with condensed milk posing as Vietnamese coffee. She ended her review with this:
“This seemed like a great moment for a well-known coffee shop to actually spend time learning about Vietnamese coffee and introducing the Dallas community to it.”
That comment ignited a litany of threats, with fingers pointed at a coffee shop owner with a reputation being combative on social media and a perplexed coffee bean roaster in Brooklyn. Eventually, Yelp had to step in and order both sides back to their corners.
“I don’t regret anything because I should be able to leave a review for a business. I’m not going to live in fear of Bob,” Vo says, referring to messages she received from Toasted and warnings from others about owner Bob Sinnot.
“They should not respond in such a bizarre way to a customer who is providing feedback,” Vo says.
After leaving the Yelp review, Vo also communicated her experience directly to Toasted through online messaging. She suggested they learn more about this style of coffee and mentioned a business in New York that sells Vietnamese beans, Nguyen Coffee Supply.
Because of that comment, Toasted inferred that Vo was affiliated with the company. That’s when things skidded off the rails.
Toasted’s social media team took that as a pay-to-play threat.
“Via a Yelp review, Melody suggested changes to our Vietnamese coffee. That alone is fine,” the “Toasted Team” wrote in an email to the Observer Thursday. “There was no rebuttal from Toasted on that initial review. But a few hours later Melody sent a message to our Instagram account suggesting we improve our Vietnamese coffee by ordering coffee beans from a ‘certain supplier.’ According to the person running our Instagram, Melody referred to this supplier as ‘we.’ As in ‘we are the only establishment in USA offering authentic Vietnamese coffee beans.'”
Toasted sent Vo an IM, “You only have 4 Yelp reviews. One says your beans are low quality. Want another one? Take your Yelp review down now.”
Vo responded to the threat, “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” not following their assumption she worked for Ngyuen Coffee Supply, which she doesn’t.
Shortly afterward, the Brooklyn bean roasters received two one-star reviews on their Yelp page, one under the name of Toasted’s owner, Bob Sinnot, the other under the name of “Major S,” writing that their beans “made guests ill.”
Nguyen Coffee Supply confirmed they received negative reviews on Yelp, but those have since been removed. Nguyen made sure to reiterate to the Observer that they do not know Vo and “only learned of her after the kerfluffle.”
Vo shared her experience along with screenshots of the back-and-forth on her Facebook page, which was then picked up by the Facebook group Reform Dallas, on which there was a collective eye roll and not-this-guy-again sigh, leading with a post from Jessie Alexander Moncrief:
Bob has a long history of attacking people in our community.
Strongly recommend taking your money elsewhere.
Lots of awesome coffee shops here in DFW.
Recommend some of your favorite places in the comments!
In 2019, Fort Worth Weekly reported, “Toasted Gets Roasted,” about an online spat between Sinnot and a former employee. After the story was published, Sinnot took responsibility and said he regretted the incident.
Vo says she was warned by people on Facebook about Sinnott.
“People told me I should be scared and that he runs another Facebook page,” Vo says. “But, we shouldn’t give bullies power. My goal in taking on Bob is if you’re going to take on a culture, represent it in a correct way.”
A Kerfuffle Too Far
A representative of Toasted continued to text Vo after her review: “Anyway … my Facebook group has 1500 members & my LinkedIn Industry group has another 300. She [Vo] knows how to prevent what could happen. Do the right thing.”
At some point, Vo wrote Toasted through her business account, Love + Sugar. Toasted threatened again, “Should I now go Yelp review Love + Sugar? Take your review down now or I will. Thank you.”
On Thursday, when we asked if she realized that she’d poked a bear, Vo replied, “We shouldn’t give bullies power.”
As the thread caught wind on Facebook, Toasted’s Yelp page was dinged with 20 one-star ratings from reviewers as far away as Boston, MA. Yelp has since disabled reviews on the account to investigate the new spate of ratings.
Vo said the negative reviews were never her intention. Toasted said they have reprimanded their Instagrammer for engaging with Vo and threatening to retaliate for the onslaught of negative reviews fostered by Vo’s public post.
“Our Instagrammer and her friend did post two such retaliation reviews,” Toasted explained, “which Toasted quickly had removed. Aside from those two unfortunate & temporary reviews, no one from Toasted has disparaged Melody or her preferred coffee-bean supplier publicly in any way. We wish Melody’s baking business the best. And we hope she truly has no financial ties to the alternative coffee-bean supplier she was promoting.”
Lastly, Toasted says they are taking Vo’s advice: “All that said, we are indeed exploring alternate recipes to our Vietnamese coffee. We do have guests that love it as is and order it daily. But we also understand that it might not be what others are expecting.”
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